Colouring book of Ancient Rome, £2.99
Height: 2.400 cm
Bequeathed by John Henderson (1878)
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
From Venice, Italy, AD 1516 or later
To commemorate a marriage
The rim of this maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware) plate is decorated alla porcellana, or in the manner of Chinese porcelain. In the centre are the arms of the Augsburg families Meuting and Hörwarth. The plate was made to commemorate the marriage of Hans Meuting and Dorothea Hörwarth, which took place in 1516.
A tin glaze dries to an opaque white, and is used to mask the clay body to produce a surface in imitation of porcelain. Just as with porcelain, the tin glaze also provides an ideal white background for painted decoration. Alla porcellana is a distinctive Venetian style of maiolica decoration. It imitates, both in form and decoration, Chinese blue-and-white Ming porcelain or its Turkish imitations. These were imported into Venice in large quantities throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Venice was the greatest trading city of the time, connecting the Islamic Near East and beyond to the rest of Europe. Wealthy merchants and agents from the southern German states were among those who frequently patronized Venetian artists.
A number of surviving plates have paired arms, usually commemorating the marriages of wealthy Augsburg and Nuremberg families. It is not clear whether these plates were painted at the time of the marriages, or were commissioned later, as there is little documentation or archaeological evidence regarding the production of this type of maiolica made in Venice.
T. Wilson, Ceramic art of the Italian Ren, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)
T. Wilson, 'Maiolica in Renaissance Venice', Apollo-6 (March 1987), pp. 184-89